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BASÍLICA DE CABEZA DE GRIEGO

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Previous notes

  • Discovered in 1760 and studied by order of Charles the Fourth in 1789 and 1790.
    -Its remains were plundered later until its total disappearance, only being
    known through the information generated then by J. Cornide
  • It is located at the southwest side of the Roman city of Segóbriga.
  • After this card was made the remains oof the Basilica
    Cabeza de Griego
    have been brought to light in 2006 as part of the
    programme of excavations in Segóbriga.

Historic environment

Now disappeared, it was discovered by some neighbors of Saelices around 1760 and studied in 1793 by José Cornide, who wrote a paper that lets us know about its characteristics. Of the then excavated remains only a few inner doors and a capital have been preserved. The rest had been fully plundered, a great part of which was used for the reconstruction of the Uclés monastery.

A very little known fact that does not come out in any bibliography about Segóbriga and that was offered to us by Dr. Alicia Mª del Canto, is that the first official excavations in Segóbriga, between the years 1789 and 1790 took place through the initiative and sponsorship of the king Charles the Fourth, who commissioned the royal archivist and famous paleographer F.J de Santiago Palomares, out of the interest with which the illustrated king had followed the private excavations of the prior of Uclés and other scholars of Saelices, that took place in the fall of 1789. Another peculiar detail regarding these works, that A.C. Canto rescued this time from the Memories of Manuel Godoy, was that those excavations had been an example, besides “works undertaken for the “support of the poor”, since “the works required many arms”. This turns Cabeza de Griego into the first case in Spain that the State financed an archaeological research.

Description

According to the information supplied by Cornide, it seems we are in front a very important monument, because on top of being the largest church in Visigothic architecture (26 m wide by 48 m long), possibly because it was built in two phases and also that its enlargement took place at the beginnings of the 6th century, before the conversion of Recaredo, when the Arrian rite dominated , this is the first Visigothic church where a clear intention of modification of the classical basilical plan is perceived in this central area of the peninsula, by adding a transept or pseudocrossing. The modification of the basilical plans by adding structures that manifest the need to count with a space similar to a crossing, possibly for reasons of rite, and that we see here for the first time, will mark all the Visigothic architecture and will give origin to the the conversion of the plans of the Visigothic churches to come to the magnificent cruciform churches of the 7th century.


Located very near the ruins of the Roman city of Segóbriga, makes us think that a Visigothic settlement existed in a city that was inhabited by the Iberians, as shown by the rests found in the Segóbriga Cave, up to the Arabs, of which a series of tombs have been found, possibly from the 10th century, interspersed among the Visigothic ones of the necropolis around the basilic. These tombs have an orientation north-south, with the skeleton leaning to the right, facing La Meca.


Along this period that goes from the Bronze Age up to the 10th century, this city was inhabited by the Celtiberian people of the Cabeza de Griego: Maqueta existente en el Museo Arqueológico de Madrid basada en la información de Cornideolcades, according to findings of fibulas and belt brooches, as well as the name of the city itself, formed by two celtic voices that may mean “City of Victory” or “Strong City”, and they lived there from the 7th or 8th century until the middle of the 2nd century b.C. when, after the Celtiberian upraises against the Romans, these ones established themselves in the city that must have been of great importance according to the magnificent remains excavated from the theater, amphitheater and thermal baths of the Roman Segóbriga.


Decoration fragments that correspond to inner doors of the Visigothic period have been found. They show vegetal and geometrical motifs as well as a magnificent degenerated Corynthian type capital, very different to those of the external basilic to which this study belongs, and that must have formed part of another basilic located in the centre of the city, almost uphill, built in the 7th century. The external basilic Cabeza de Griego: Capitel perteneciente a otra basílica que existía en la parte alta de la ciudadwas surrounded by a large necropolis, which indicates its funeral character, where great amounts of tombs have been found, oriented east-west, built upon reutilized Roman ashlars or excavated directly in the soil, containing generally very poor trousseaux, with rings, simple earrings collar beads and wooden coffin nails. Among these tombs also the Arabic ones that we have mentioned previously, have appeared.


This external basilic was initially a mausoleum of the 5th century devoted mainly to two characters which important sepulchers were found in the ultrasemicircular apse that, together with a rectangular nartex formed the mausoleum. Both were communicated through a horseshoe shaped door, according to the description of Cornide. It was a two story building; the upper one had a lithurgical function, as it was usual in funeral buildings of that time.


In the 6th century three naves were added and it became a basilic, using the upper part of the mausoleum as a chevet, to which also two lateral compartments were added that gave it a strange shape of “tau” The floor of the naves was at the level of the original crypt. For that reason the basilica’s chevet was higher and had access by two staircases located at the sides of the central nave. Under this elevation several tombs have been found, which showsVista general de la basílica visigoda durante la excavaciones en Septiembre de 2006. Fotografía procedente de un estudio de J.M. Abascal y R. Cebrián sobre la inscripción del obispo Sefronius.the funeral character of the building. It possibly served for the burials of the bishops of Segóbriga, since the inscriptions show that three tombs correspond to Sefronio, Nigrinio and Caonio, and another one possibly to Honorato; all of them referred to in the minutes of the Toledo councils. Since Sefronio died in the year 580, according to what may be deducted from the found epitaph, and that the other two were prior to him, we may suppose that the second part of the basilic was built in the first half of the 6th century.


The three naves were separated by two rows of ten columns each, possibly linked by lintels, as the distance is too big to think on an eventual existence of arches between them, and it also seems obvious that it was covered by flat roofs, following the classical basilical sketches.


The shape of the apse that corresponded to the upper part of the mausoleum is not known, as it had already disappeared when the excavations were achieved, but it is likely it wasy close to the shape of the crypt.


The bond, except in the two small rooms that prolonged the transept, built in roghstone, had a base of big squared ashlars, possibly with the central nucleus of roughstone, according to a typical Roman system.


With regard to the decoration, rests of stuccos have been found, chiseled before they hardened, to cover the walls with drawings of secant circles, hexagons reticulum, alternating with squares, volutes and a chrismon, belonging to the beginnings of the Visigothic sculpture, of the same kind of those found in Baños de Moro and Aljezares, both in the province of Murcia, that are of the same period.


Other interesting information

Access: Freeway A-3: Exit 103. Take CM-310; at 3.5 Km you reach the ruins of Segóbriga. Upon arrival, at the left of the freeway, there is a place where thas basilica stood near the Museo de Segóbriga and the Visigothic necropolis.
GPS Coordinates: 39º 53′ 27,92″N 2º 48′ 37,05″W.
Information telephone: Centro de Interpretación de Segóbriga: 629 75 22 57.
Visiting hours: April 15th through September 15th: from 9 to 21 September 16th through April 14th: from 10 to 18. Mondays closed, except holidays

 

Bibliography

Historia de España de Menéndez Pidal: Tomo III
SUMMA ARTIS: Tomo VIII

L’Art Preroman Hispanique: ZODIAQUE
Ars Hispanie: Tomo II
La
Arqueología española en la época de Carlos IV y Godoy. Los dibujos de Mérida de
don Manuel de Villena Moziño (1791-1794): Alicia Mª Canto.
Segóbriga. Guía
del Conjunto Arqueógico: Martín Almagro Basch

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